By: Trevor Jeffery
Burnt is a dash of unabashed wet dream of a 40-something’s longing for the bohemian days of his twenties, with a hint of a decently entertaining film about a world-class chef and the intra-kitchen dynamics of a quality start-up restaurant in London. Sauté in quality performances for 100 minutes.
In John Wells’ Burnt, Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a former hot-shot chef who fell into the hard life, got clean, and wants to make another go at it – by opening a restaurant in London, and getting the coveted three star review from the Michelin Guide Book. He gathers a ragtag group of chefs, kitchen workers and managerial staff – some from his past life, some new acquaintances – and opens the restaurant, all the while still trying to make up for past mistakes.
The first half of Burnt, during which Adam Jones has the gall to show his face around the ol’ cookin’ grounds, is an unfortunate and embarrassing 45 minutes of Bradley Cooper waxing poetic about how awesome it was to be a rock star, jerk off chef on drugs, and how awesome he is to have completed his self-appointed penance. Yup, he released rats in your restaurant; he broke your heart/nose/bank account; he almost killed himself and probably you on one or more occasion. But, he shucked a million oysters, quit drinking and is back, baby, so get over your reservations because he wants to be famous again.
The dialogue reads like how a 23-year-old suburban boy would hope and imagine his rise-and-fall story would play out. An example interaction is with a restaurant critic, who says “I’m a lesbian” and then loudly questions why she slept with Adam Jones (it’s rhetorical: the likely answer is because Jones is the sad fantasy of a screenwriter). This pompous screenwriting is by far the killing blow for what would otherwise be a “pretty alright” to “kind of good” movie.
The back end of the movie, however, drops its pretension and plays out like a dramedy about a self-obsessed chef should. The shoehorned-yet-endearing love story with a saucier (Sienna Miller) is surprisingly palatable – Miller and Cooper share a great chemistry when it comes to the hate/love dynamic. The dialogue still has a whiff of immaturity, but is focused enough on moving the story along that it blends in much more nicely.
The performers are easily worth seeing the film for. Notably, Omar Sy (The Intouchables) reminds you that supporting actors can do a damn good job without stealing the scene, while conversely, Daniel Brühl demands your gaze away from Bradley Cooper (after a little while of warming up to his character).
One might sit in on Burnt and quickly judge it as overtly flowery, self-congratulatory writing – only to be pleasantly surprised just when you think you can’t roll your eyes any harder.
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Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery